Now that I am well into the third trimester of my pregnancy, I’ve been reading up on labour and birth to try to “prepare” myself. Having said that, I do wonder how prepared you can be for such a mammoth, exhausting and life changing event. Being the over the top organised person I am, I drafted my birth plan a couple of months ago because I already had a fairly certain idea of how I would like my birth to go, although of course keeping in mind these plans can often go out the window at a moments notice. Knowing myself and that I am useless with pain and also that I didn’t want to be one of these women who was screaming bloody murder throughout the delivery (as seen on OBEM), I decided very early on I would 100% be opting for an epidural. For me, one of the most important things about my labour is that my baby comes into the world to a relatively calm mother and environment, and from research I’ve done, I believe an epidural will help me accomplish this. I think it is amazing that so many women can give birth completely naturally with nothing more than gas and air and a couple of painkillers. I sincerely take my hat off to them. But every woman is different. You don’t get a medal for going through all that pain just so you can say they didn’t have pain relief. You get a baby – and that is the same wonderful reward you get if you do opt to have pain relief. And from some of the things I’ve read, there is a real stigma and fear amongst mothers who have, or plan to have an epidural in that they feel it will make them less of a mother especially when admitting they’ve had one. To me this is totally unacceptable. Every woman is different and each woman knows her own body, her own pain threshold and how much she is willing to cope with. If there is an option there available to us that can reduce that pain and discomfort and give you the opportunity to stop focusing on the pain, and put your energy into the pushing stage of labour, then I think that’s a great thing and if you feel it’s going to help you, embrace it. If there wasn’t such a stigma attached to women having pain relief in labour, then I believe we wouldn’t have so many women feeling like failures because they opted for pain relief when they’ve experienced the excruciating pain of birth and have decided against the drug free birth they had originally planned. Yes, women just “got on with” it back in the day, but lets face it, they didn’t really have much choice did they. And let’s not forget that many women died during childbirth then too, and sadly still do in less developed countries around the world. The argument that it’s a natural process that has happened since the dawn of time really gets my goat; diseases and injuries are also natural, but that doesn’t mean we expect to deal with these without medical help and drugs these days, so why do treat labour differently. Why not give women as much help and support as possible, to make the process safer and less painful.
Sometimes I have felt I wish I was one of these women who could do it all with no pain relief, but then I wonder why am I even thinking like that. Pain relief or not, all us pregnant women have carried and grown our beautiful baby for 9 months – that in itself is something to be proud of. I think the most advantageous part of giving birth in this day and age is that women have a choice! There is a vast array of pain relief available now along with some fantastic natural relief methods too; hypno-birthing, acupuncture and the wonder that is water! I personally would also love the experience of a water birth, but this is not possible if you are going down the epidural route, which to me is something I absolutely want. I’ve spoken to lots of friends, family members and other mothers about their experiences of epidurals. I’ve been asked outright why I would even consider having an epidural (and my reasons are that I don’t have any desire to feel the impending agonising pain, I know myself well enough to know it’s unlikely I’d cope very well, therefore I want an option where my baby comes into the world without a screaming banshee of a mother plus it is one of the few pain relief options that does not affect the baby). When I’ve been asked why I want one and have given these reasons, I’ve been met with all manner of responses; some people have said that it’s a great plan and can’t recommend an epidural enough, some say they respect my reasons, some have looked genuinely shocked that it would even cross my mind and of course, as with anything controversial, I’ve had some outright negative judgements and been told to “Man up”!
But this takes me back to the point that how we give birth is our choice – and if you have options available to you that would suit you then take them. It’s great to get people’s advice and listen to their experiences but people’s personal opinions are a different matter and I feel it’s important to listen to these but don’t let them define the decisions you decide to make.
Having said all this, there’s every chance I may not even get the option of an epidural. No, not just because I might leave it too late (please god no!), but because I am waiting for confirmation of whether I might need a Caesarian section thanks to a low laying placenta. C-sections are another birth experience that can create a lot of debate. I remember being younger and thinking C-sections sounded like the best option ever; naively I just imagined no pain, not having to go through the gruelling labour, no damage to your vagina and it being a nice easy option! Obviously now that I am older and wiser (wow – me, wise!!) I know that a C-section is actually a major operation complete with a long recovery and potential complications. I am willing to do exactly as I am advised by my consultant and midwife because I want whatever is safest and best for my baby but I’ll admit, the prospect of a C-section terrifies me. I am scared of being cut open, complications such as blood loss, and the thought of the baby not being placed straight on my chest after birth makes me quite sad. But again, I need to embrace being open-minded. One of my best friends had to have a C-section with her second baby, as advised to following an emergency C-section with her first, and given that her second one was planned and she knew what would be happening, and when, she said it was a wonderful experience; calm, organised and she was incredibly well looked after. It certainly didn’t sound like the horror story I’d built up in my head. So it goes to show I shouldn’t have judged what a C-sections entails.
People are always going to judge the choices you make in life; the clothes you choose to wear, the car you choose to drive, the massive life decisions you make. Sometimes these judgements are light-hearted and can easily be taken with a pinch of salt. Others can be throw away comments that may stay with you in your head for years. In situations such as birth choices, I think women should empower each other and reassure each other. You are no less of a woman, mother or person for having an epidural, or any other pain relief you desire. It is not something you should hide with shame. You should speak proudly of your labour with as much passion as you would if you had no pain relief at all.
This may sound a bit odd, but I am proud of my admission to want an epidural. I don’t feel any shame for it, nor should I. I love hearing people’s thoughts but it wouldn’t sway me from the choice I’ve made. Because it’s my choice, my desire to have. And whether you want to be in water, have an epidural, listen to hypno-birthing CD’s, whatever you decide to do, do it proudly. This is your birth, your baby, your life experience and every mother has the right to be proud of her babies arrival into the world.
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this so please do leave comments and give this post a like if you’ve enjoyed it.
Have a great weekend